The war against Russia's spies just cost Putin billions from a cancelled nuclear contract
Russia's President Vladimir Putin in 2012. ALEXEY DRUZHININ / AFP / GettyImages
Moscow and the Czech Republic are driving each other's "diplomats" out of a conflict over Russia's sabotage campaign in Europe.
The Czech Republic has also terminated a nuclear treaty with Russia for good reason.
"This project was critical not only for Russia's income, but also for influencing local affairs," a source told Insider.
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Russia announced on Monday the expulsion of at least 20 Czech diplomats in an angry response to the gutting of Moscow's most critical intelligence agency in central Europe over the weekend when Czech authorities accused Russian intelligence of being behind two explosions in an ammunition dump in 2014.
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فإن خلال التركيز على الابتكارات ، فإن US soy قادرة على المساعدة في تقليل البصمة الكربونية
The Czech Republic has accused a notorious Russian intelligence unit involved in several operations in Europe and the UK of conducting two operations in 2014 that resulted in explosions at an ammunition factory in 2014. At that time, the ammunition is said to be heading for Russia's rivals in Ukraine. After nearly seven years of investigating the explosions, Czech authorities clarified the links between the Russian secret service GRU - including the passports used in the Salisbury poisoning by suspected GRU agents in 2018 - and began evicting Russian intelligence officers from Prague.
"Prague is a key stop for [Russian intelligence] as it has a semi-friendly government and is an excellent logistical hub for operations due to its central location within the European Union," a Central European intelligence official who follows Russian operations in the region told Insider .
"The 18 'diplomats' who were evicted from the Czech Republic are well-known intelligence officials from [various Russian services] and have been involved in operations not only against the Czech Republic but also against much of Europe," the official said. "For operational reasons, I'm not sure whether there is a more important EU station for the Russians outside of Berlin."
According to Czech officials, the Russian diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic has around 120 diplomats and employees, more than twice the size of missions in comparatively large countries or as large as the Czech mission in Russia. Russia Monday expelled 20 Czech diplomats in retaliation for moving over the weekend.
Czech has also prevented a Russian company from placing billions in contracts for the maintenance of the Dukovany nuclear power plant.
"The loss of these many intelligence officers will reduce the activities and capabilities of the Russians for the time being," said the Central European official. "And Putin will now see billions in losses in nuclear contracts. This project was crucial not only for revenue for Russia, but also for the impact on local affairs that the treaty would give."
"This is real punishment for the Russians, but I remain skeptical that such a thing will affect their behavior, although some intelligence officials may need to explain how they could have been trapped in an area as sensitive and critical as Czech," said a NATO military intelligence official.
The 2014 incident that sparked the confrontation began when two men - who became world famous years later after allegations that they carried out the Salisbury poisoning - entered the Czech Republic under one set of passports but access to under a second set of passports an ammunition production facility.
The ammunition belonged to a Bulgarian arms dealer who was poisoned a year later by the same deadly nerve agent used in Salisbury. The explosion at the facility killed two Czech workers in what was then considered an accident.
But after Salisbury, Russian unity - identified by Western intelligence as GRU unit 29155 - was exposed, and both Czech officials and open source investigators could easily link the movements of Russian officials to a number of operations across Europe, the aimed at Putin's enemies.
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